Monday, November 19, 2007

Honk if You Love ....

I don't like being in the way. Really don't like it. I think it's because I grew up fat ... fatty fatty two by four can't get through the kitchen door ... and was always made keenly aware of my size and the space available. Interestingly I've noticed that other fat folk seem to have similar approaches to space. Yesterday in the restaurant having breakfast I noticed a young very skinny woman sitting down at a table for six - with no thought of the lineup at the door - while a very large couple crowded into a small area that really was appropriate for only one. I'da done the same. Take up less space, avoid angry stares.

The wheelchair has only amplified this. I tire and sometimes have to stop when pushing myself from one place to another. Every time I look to park somewhere out of the way, I don't want two footers to vault over me. Joe's even worse about this, he'll grab my chair and move me while I'm paying for something so that someone can get more easily by. We've, um, discussed this a number of times.

Then yesterday we went to Tesco's to do some shopping and all the disabled parking bays were taken. We managed to find parking fairly close to the store but the parking bay was very narrow. I got out of the car and stood, bracing myself against the car next. Joe managed to get the chair out of our hire car and off we went.

On our way back the parking lot was pandemonium with way too many cars looking for way too few spaces. There was no way that Joe could get the wheelchair back in the car. So I waited while he backed the car up and got it parked so that I could get in and the wheelchair could be loaded. I got in easily but Joe took a few seconds to get the feet off the chair and loaded. Then he was folding the chair to put it in.

It was evident for all the world to see that we had parked in an available spot, that the spot wasn't wide enough to get the chair in, and there were people honking. Honking. Angry honking. Hurry up you are in our way, honking. Honking displeasure. Honk if you love yourself - honking. I could see Joe's blood pressure rise and his coordination fall. He was rushing so much that he couldn't get the chair in the back door.

Now the cars are screaming angry. With a huge shove Joe got the wheelchair into the back and then hopped in the car and drove away. He was upset that WE were in THEIR way. I was upset that THEY were in OUR way. Their attitude and their anger was in the way of us just getting about our business.

Is anyone so important that waiting for 5 minutes for a wheelchair to get put into a car is a bother?

What's happened to manners and civility?

Ah, the joys of travel.


BenefitScroungingScum said...

I'm sorry you've had that experience. It sucks. Though, I'm sad to say it's a fairly typical experience of being disabled in the UK, there are never enough disabled parking bays, often they're filled with people who are perfectly able bodied and who could care less that they've taken up a much needed space. I recently went to Germany and just couldn't believe the difference in the way things were organised there for disabled people, so much space, and so well thought through!
We are though a very small, overpopulated island with not enough space as it is, but I don't think that excuses the lack of planning on these issues, to me it always seems like nothing works right for people with additional needs as there has never been anyone with disabilities sufficiently involved in the planning. Sigh.
That aside, I really hope you're having a good trip, I tend to find that irritated, honking horns aside, people can be incredibly kind and helpful here, it's just shown in a less overt way to the American or Canadian style.
Will you be over in the North West of the UK at all, and how long are you guys here for? I'd really love a chance to come hear you speak, or even just say hi! Bendy Girl

Anonymous said...

In the states it seems the opposite as far as parking goes. Plenty of disabled parking spaces available. There are of course plenty of places where access is problematic or downright non-existent but I think ADA has, at least on the surface, scared most businesses into making adaptations. Of course there are ramps that go to nowhere and the disabled student center doesn't have an accessible front door---but on the surface, it's all okay, right?


Kei said...

Sadly, manners and civility have taken a back seat to the hurry hurry hurry me me me attitudes that many people possess. Whenever someone has apologized for taking so long in line, or pulling out of a space, my husband tells them, "That's okay... if I was in that big of a hurry I'd have left sooner" It usually puts a smile on someone's face.
What bugs me is if I'm patiently waiting for someone to pull out of a space and the people behind me start honking at me!!!

Myrrien said...

You made the mistake of getting in the way of angry shoppers, I think it has to do with all that forming queues and then having to part with cash.

I do hope the rest of your stay is a lot better, we are all looking forward to hearing you speak at Reid MacEwan over the next few days.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry you had such a bad experience driving on UK roads!
But I have to share something with you! A good friend of mine makes a conscious effort to do at least three kind acts while behind the wheel of his car each day. It's like a payback thing for all the bad things he had done in his life! On hearing this I try to put in practice this thinking myself while behind the wheel of my car.
Amen for conscious awareness on the roads!

rickismom said...

Yes, I believe that often overweight people are keenly aware and try not to take up space. Below is a recent quote from my blog. And,frankly I am surprised at the reaction you received. I live in a place where EVERYONE is in a hurry, but I can't imagine such a reaction... Are you sure that they realized that it was a wheelchair?
from my blog:
"Yesterday I was on the bus, and as I boarded, I automatically checked first to see if the one slightly-wider-than-most-seat was available. It wasn't, being occupied, ironically, by a waif-like wisp of a teenager. Of course. The single seats were taken as well. I like them, because even though they are a bit of a tight fit, I can relax when seated there, knowing that I am not infringing on anyone else's space. So I choose to stand, not feeling comfortable to squeeze in next to someone else."

Jeff said...


Sorry to hear about your frustrations in the UK. I spent 4 years there and found them all to be really great folks and usually not in a big hurry.

Hang in there on your trip.

valleegurll said...

I live in a very small town and the grocery store has 4 spots labelled as "disabled parking". A number of years ago the organization that I work for had purchased our first wheelchair van. It was huge! A Dodge extended length, extended roof 3/4 ton van...insane consumption of get my point. Well to park this beast - you needed to park on the end parking spot with the passenger side facing out because the hydralic lift was on that side. Numerous times we came of the grocery store to find that someone parked on the end where there was no parking and blocked us in - The van had a sign that read no parking within 3 meters - but seriously how many people pay attention to that! So for many weeks I would leave my friend with her groceries outside the door of the grocery store and bring the van to the doors of the store...block the entire entrance while I lowered the hydralic lift - which is extremely slow in the winter cold, bring her into the van and then groceries! After a couple of weeks the town folk clued in. This van needs space!! My intention was not to attract attention to my friend and I don't believe it ever did - however I feel that there are times that if you are not literally in peoples faces or spaces they are just clueless to the needs of those around them.
FYI - We now own a compact mini van converted with a rear entry ramp...Heavenly to drive, fuel and park!

Kay Olson said...

I've had that discussion with friends and family too. They think I'm in the way. I've learned over the years that this will mean, by nature of the space a chair takes and the lack of space allowed for people in chairs, that I will ALWAYS be in other people's way unless the mindset is changed and my friends and family recognize that I deserve the space I take up just like anyone else.

Naomi J. said...

Yes, I get this kind of reaction a lot in these sorts of situations. I'm sorry to hear you experienced worse treatment in the UK than in the US - but I think our level of disability awareness, and approach to disability equality, is much poorer here than in your neck of the woods. I hope that will change - but I don't see attitudes changing particularly fast.

I, too, hate being 'in the way'. I'm trying to learn not to apologise for it any more, though. I take up more space because society can't organize shops and roads and parking well enough to accommodate disabled people. At least, that's how I'm trying to think...!

Elizabeth McClung said...

I'm not sure whether to say "welcome to the UK" or "Welcome to Tesco's" - probably the later - you don't slow down the people who want to get to tesco's on a weekend - In 8 years living the UK, I never once heard a car use the horn to, you know, notify someone of something for safety, it was always, "honk" for "I think you can go faster", "honk" for, "Pedestrians might have right in the Drivers handbook but I'm going to run you over if you don't get out of my way!" and "honk" for, "I don't care if this is a narrow road, YOU back up becuase I can honk more than you can."

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

My son is still in a stroller, and although the sentiment of your post is much more serious, I can relate to your frustration over the attitude of impatient strangers. I can't tell you how many people have raced in front of me to board the city bus and Skytrain. Or how many cars have turned dangerously close to me and my son (in stroller) while I am crossing at a set of traffic lights. The best one yet is having to struggle opening public doors because the man in front of couldn't wait a few seconds to hold it open so I could take over...Some days, I just want to scream. But I don't. I smile...okay, grimace...and keep going.

Anonymous said...

"Is anyone so important that waiting for 5 minutes for a wheelchair to get put into a car is a bother?"

Is anyone so important at all to wait for a fellow human being? regardless of gender, ethnic origins, disability or lack thereof! We are an impatient society!! GRRR!